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Environment: Huge increase in spending on water urged to avert global catastrophe

Countries across the world will have to dramatically increase investment in dams, pipes and other water infrastructure to avoid widespread flooding, drought and disease even before climate change accelerates these problems, experts have warned.

Investment needs to be at least doubled from the current level of $80bn (£45.5bn) a year, an international congress was told this week, and one leading authority said spending needed to rise to 1.5% of gross domestic product just "to be able to cope with the current climate" - one thousand times the current level.

The warnings follow a summer of dramatic events, from hurricane flooding in the Caribbean and the east coast of America to desperate measures in drought-stricken Mediterranean countries, including importing water by ship.

Rich nations suffer huge under-investment, but the threat of poor infrastructure to populations in developing countries is even greater, said Dr Olcay Unver, director of the United Nations' Global Water Assessment Unit.

So serious is the problem that next year the UN's World Water Assessment Report will make one of its main messages the need for investment to "accelerate substantially", said Unver.

"You can't justify the deaths of so many children because of lack of infrastructure or lost productive time of people [who are] intellectually or physically incapacitated in·ca·pac·i·tate  
tr.v. in·ca·pac·i·tat·ed, in·ca·pac·i·tat·ing, in·ca·pac·i·tates
1. To deprive of strength or ability; disable.

2. To make legally ineligible; disqualify.
 because of simple lack of access to safe water or sanitation," he added.

Dr Glen Daigger, senior vice-president of the International Water Association, said there was growing evidence that spending on clean water and sanitation was the single greatest contribution to reducing disease and death. The UN has identified dams for hydropower hy·dro·pow·er  
Hydroelectric power.
 and irrigation irrigation, in agriculture, artificial watering of the land. Although used chiefly in regions with annual rainfall of less than 20 in. (51 cm), it is also used in wetter areas to grow certain crops, e.g., rice.  as leading drivers of sustainable economic growth in developing countries. "Water and sanitation is clearly a better investment than medical intervention, but it's not sexy," added Daigger.

Last year the World Bank called for investment in water infrastructure to more than double from $80bn to $180bn over the next 20-25 years to cope with population growth and climate change, which are expected to leave about 4 billion people living in "water stress" areas - deemed to have insufficient water to meet daily needs. Conditions would be particularly severe in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia This article is about the geopolitical region in Asia. For geophysical treatments, see Indian subcontinent.
South Asia, also known as Southern Asia
, said the bank. Water pollution and the threat to coastal areas of erosion, sea level rise and storm surges are also growing concerns.

However, experts meeting at the IWA IWA International Water Association
IWA International Webmasters Association
IWA Inland Waterways Association (UK)
IWA International Windsurfing Association
IWA Williams-Gateway Airport
 conference of 2,700 water professionals in Vienna suggested the true scale of the problem could be much higher.

Prof Pavel Kabat, one of the lead authors of the water chapter in last year's report by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change “IPCC” redirects here. For other uses, see IPCC (disambiguation).
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established in 1988 by two United Nations organizations, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment
, said investment needed to rise to 1.5% of GDP GDP (guanosine diphosphate): see guanine.  for 20 years, just to cope with existing population demand and climate variability. Africa, the region with the greatest lack of infrastructure, would have to spend its entire forecast GDP growth for more than half a century even to reach relatively modest levels of water storage and supply; and even Europe would have to triple spending.

Failure to invest would mean "we'd have more recurrent floods and droughts because our systems are not able to take the magnitude and frequency of water we're witnessing," he said. It would also undermine other development spending in poorer nations, said Kabat, citing the example of Kenya, where he said two extreme years of wet and dry in the 1990s destroyed 40% of the country's wealth.

"If these things are not in place we can keep on building schools but we're not doing the right thing," he added.

Among the proposals to reduce costs, water users would have to accept different grades of water, including a lower grade in gardens and toilets, said Professor Alexander Zehnder, of the Alberta Water Research Institute, Canada. "Why are we spending a lot of money to clean the water and then we piss in it?"

Earlier this year the American Society of Civil Engineers “ASCE” redirects here. For the Nigerian stock exchange, see Abuja Securities and Commodities Exchange.
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) is a professional body founded in 1852 to represent members of the civil engineering profession worldwide.
 said the US needed to spend $1.6tn over five years to repair all its crumbling infrastructure, and gave the worst assessment of all to the water sector. Federal funds Federal Funds

Funds deposited to regional Federal Reserve Banks by commercial banks, including funds in excess of reserve requirements.

These non-interest bearing deposits are lent out at the Fed funds rate to other banks unable to meet overnight reserve
 for drinking water drinking water

supply of water available to animals for drinking supplied via nipples, in troughs, dams, ponds and larger natural water sources; an insufficient supply leads to dehydration; it can be the source of infection, e.g. leptospirosis, salmonellosis, or of poisoning, e.g.
 were less than 10% of what was needed.

In the UK the Institution of Civil Engineers Founded on 2 January 1818, the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) is an independent professional association, based in central London, representing civil engineers. Like its early membership, the majority of its current members are British engineers, but it also has members in  said that despite significant investment since water privatisation in 1989 many mains pipes were extremely old and in poor condition, and under-investment in new reservoirs had led to "insufficient winter reserve storage to sustain supplies in extreme conditions".

Last year's floods in the UK exposed fears about the safety of a reservoir dam in Yorkshire, leading to 100 homes being evacuated. Yesterday the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) is the leading professional and examining body for scientists, engineers, other environmental professionals, students and those committed to the sustainable management and development of water and the environment.  warned that floods were having "devastating dev·as·tate  
tr.v. dev·as·tat·ed, dev·as·tat·ing, dev·as·tates
1. To lay waste; destroy.

2. To overwhelm; confound; stun: was devastated by the rude remark.
" health, social and economic consequences.

"Impacts can range from immediate death, injury and harm from contaminated contaminated,
v 1. made radioactive by the addition of small quantities of radioactive material.
2. made contaminated by adding infective or radiographic materials.
3. an infective surface or object.
 water, through to lasting psychological consequences caused by damaged homes, loss of personal possessions and financial worries," said the London-based institution.

Brown Danube

The Danube

Despite its role in European history, the Danube has been neglected. A report out today says that, despite improving, nearly half its 1,771-mile length fails to meet European Union European Union (EU), name given since the ratification (Nov., 1993) of the Treaty of European Union, or Maastricht Treaty, to the

European Community

Many cities in former Soviet countries that line its banks do not treat waste water and flush the sewage of millions of residents straight into Europe's second-longest river and down to the Black Sea.

The International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River The International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR) is an international organisation consisting of 13 cooperating states (Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, , which has published the report, says more than 200 schemes costing €4.5bn (£3.6bn) are needed just to treat waste water. Drinking water supply projects costing about half that much again are also required, said Philip Weller, the commission's executive secretary.

But the affected countries are all in eastern Europe Eastern Europe

The countries of eastern Europe, especially those that were allied with the USSR in the Warsaw Pact, which was established in 1955 and dissolved in 1991.
 and do not have the money, he said. "The hope is some of those investments will come from the European Union; some will have to come direct from the countries."


Water stress is defined as having less than 1,000 cubic meters of water a year per person. By this definition up to 2.1 million people already have too little, and population growth and more variable rainfall threaten to make this much worse.

The problems are acute in south-east Asia and Africa, but Africa is least able to cope. Average US storage capability is 6,000 cubic metres; in China it is less than half of that and in many countries in Africa it is minuscule. To bring the region up to South Africa's level of nearly 750 cubic metres would need all the estimated 5%-7% rise in national income every year for up to 80 years.
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Date:Sep 11, 2008
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